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Excessive Corporate Control in Medicine

A valuable report lays out the harm due to a corporate takeover of medicine –deleteriously affecting the experience of both providers and patients. The American Medical Association is failing to fight this trend. Regulatory action and physician activism are needed.

November 15, 2023

The Corporate Practice of Medicine
TAKE MEDICINE BACK
October 2023
By Mitchell Li, Sailesh Konda, Robert McNamara

[HJM bolding]

Conclusion: 

The corporate practice of medicine doctrine was integral in providing an ethical basis for the practice of medicine. Today, the American Medical Association (AMA) explicitly tolerates the corporate practice of medicine, and state prohibitions on CPOM are broadly unenforced. The vast majority of physicians are now employees of increasingly consolidated corporations, while moral injury and burnout among physicians are at unsustainable levels. Rapid horizontal and vertical consolidation of non-physician healthcare corporations that employ physicians not only increases monopoly power over consumers, which in return increases costs, but also increases monopsony power over physician labor. This has resulted in anti-competitive labor practices that lead to intimidation of, and retaliation against physicians who advocate for patients.

This places the public at risk through greater corporate influence over the practice of medicine. Corporations are increasingly replacing physicians with lesser-trained non-physician practitioners in order to maximize profits, while increasing costs to patients and taxpayers and eliminating remaining safeguards of physician expertise from the unfettered corporate practice of medicine.

A new era of robust antitrust enforcement in healthcare is needed. Past FTC actions against the AMA restricting the ability to impose ethical restrictions on its members should be re-examined in the context of unintended consequences of enabling corporatization and consolidation. A national prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine is necessary to accompany the strengthening, and enforcement of existing state-based prohibitions. Physician organizations must collectively reject non-physician corporate ownership of medical practices. Reclaiming the profession from corporate interests will take time, and greater protections for employed physicians are needed now in order to protect patients. In the face of legislative inaction at the state and federal level, employed physicians should use the tools available to labor and organize through unionization.

Comment by: Don McCanne

This very impressive 63-page report on the corporate practice of medicine explains very well how the monopoly (one seller) power over health care consumers has increased costs, and the monopsony (one buyer) power over physicians has led to intimidation of and retaliation against physicians who advocate for their patients, resulting in moral injury and burnout. And this is just the beginning of the harm being done.

Coincidentally, Sen. Bernie Sanders is currently holding hearings with the message that we need to expand union organizing in this country to rein in corporate greed if we are going to save the middle class and the workers in this country (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/nov/14/bernie-sanders-unions-middle-class-labor-movement).

This report on the corporate practice of medicine closes its Conclusion with the following two sentences: “Reclaiming the profession from corporate interests will take time, and greater protections for employed physicians are needed now in order to protect patients. In the face of legislative inaction at the state and federal level, employed physicians should use the tools available to labor and organize through unionization.”

Remarkably, the American Medical Association, at its interim meeting of its Congress of Delegates this week, actually brought this report up for consideration. However, the membership is down to 10% of US physicians, and they are predominantly politically conservative in my opinion (I’m a Life Member), so their Council on Legislation recommended that it not be adopted. But at least some more concerned members did have it pulled out of the “not for consideration” list of resolutions. There is some moral spark within the AMA such as those who attempted to have the AMA withdraw their long-standing opposition to single payer. Even though that effort failed this time, maybe the good guys and gals will eventually prevail.

Anyway, for those of us who care about our patients, we need to end the private corporate control of health care, and we need to take the immediate action of using the tools available to labor and organize through unionization.

This white paper is worth downloading and sharing with all who care.

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